UNCOVERING A SILENT 10 ketteringhealth.org Mohamed Abdelrahman, MD, is a cardiologist at Kettering Health Hypertension explained Chronic elevated blood pressure, known as hypertension, is one of the most common medical conditions affecting Americans. Nearly half of U.S. adults have it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those adults, only about 24% successfully control it. A blood pressure reading is given as two numbers: a systolic (upper) and a diastolic (lower) number. Normal blood pressure is less than 120 and less than 80 mmHg. Hypertension refers to blood pressure that consistently measures at or above 130 systolic over 80 diastolic. It strains the blood vessels and puts patients at increased risk for heart disease, kidney damage, and stroke. How is hypertension diagnosed? Anxiety and adrenaline can temporarily speed up your heart rate, but briefly feeling your heart racing does not mean you have hypertension. Unfortunately, the condition operates more covertly. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) calls hypertension the “silent killer.” Most people are unaware of their chronically high blood pressure because it is asymptomatic. The only way to detect hypertension is with blood pressure readings. “We need at least two separate readings taken during separate visits,” says Mohamed Abdelrahman, MD. “If both readings are above 130 over 80 mmHg, then we can diagnose hypertension.” Since it’s common for patients to have anxiety at the doctor’s office, Dr. Abdelrahman says he often advises patients to conduct their own readings once a week with an at-home blood pressure cuff. “It’s a good way to keep an eye on their blood pressure, identify hypertension as early as possible, and guide future therapy,” he says. To get an accurate blood pressure reading on a home monitor, Dr. Abdelrahman advises sitting for five minutes before taking the reading. Make sure to support the arm and use the correct cuff size. What causes hypertension? Primary hypertension accounts for about 90% of cases. “In most cases of primary hypertension, the exact cause of elevated blood pressure is unknown,” says Dr. Abdelrahman. “However, multiple studies have demonstrated the significant role of genetic predisposition and environmental risk factors.” Common risk factors for high blood pressure include • Smoking • Obesity or being overweight • Excessive alcohol consumption KILLER Heart health ARE YOU AT RISK FOR HYPERTENSION? Go to ketteringhealth.org/heartcare to take Kettering Health’s heart quiz.